Fears grow over threat to freedom in elections

Bosnia's shaky peace: Amid concern that poll will confirm warmongers' hold on power, PM sounds out Karadzic's opponents

Less than four months before the first post-war general elections in Bosnia, international observers and Bosnian Muslim officials are raising the alarm over whether the vote will be free and fair. Still worse, many fear that even if the elections go ahead, their main effect will be to consolidate Bosnia's de facto partition into three national zones - Muslim, Serb and Croat.

The International Helsinki Federation, a leading human rights group, called last Thursday for the vote to be postponed, saying that to hold it by 14 September as foreseen in the Dayton peace agreement would merely confirm the dominance of the nationalist political forces that sparked the war.

"It is seriously to be feared that one will see cemented the practices of ethnic separation, and that the people who led the war will continue to decide the fate of Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Dardan Gashi, a consultant for the group.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia are expected to meet the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia in Geneva soon to press for full compliance with civilian aspects of the Dayton agreement, including the return of refugees and the holding of free elections. The meeting will address international concerns that none of the three former combatants is doing as much as is necessary to avert the risk of Bosnia's three-way partition.

Bosnia's Muslim president, Alija Izetbegovic, and his colleagues, argue that the elections should not take place unless Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leaders charged with war crimes, have given up office.

They say the two men are certain to manipulate the vote if still on the scene, and point out that the Dayton agreement calls for the removal of indicted war criminals. However, among countries with troops in the 60,000-strong Nato-led peace implementation force in Bosnia, the US in particular seems unwilling to make elections conditional on the fate of Messrs Karadzic and Mladic. The State Department spokes-man, Nicholas Burns, said on Wednesday that as long as Mr Karadzic was marginalised and confined to his headquarters at Pale, outside Sarajevo, "I think the elections can go forward and will go forward with him sitting in his bitter isolation".

As yet, however, Mr Karadzic is in anything but bitter isolation. Last weekend he beat off an attempt by Carl Bildt, the international High Representative overseeing the civilian aspects of Dayton, to push him out of power. Now he is threatening to stage a referendum among Bosnian Serbs to muster popular support for his opposition to the peace settlement.

Meanwhile, Gen Mladic attended the funeral of another Serb war crimes suspect in Belgrade on Tuesday, in his first public appearance outside Bosnian Serb territory since the war ended last December. The UN war crimes tribunal attacked Serbia for letting in the general, saying the Dayton settlement obliges signatories not to shield suspects on their soil.

Nato's Secretary-General, Javier Solana, denied yesterday that Western countries had tacitly agreed to let Messrs Karadzic and Mladic remain in Bosnian Serb territory so long as they withdrew from public view and shed most of their powers. However, Western officials acknowledge that there is little appetite for arresting the two men, lest it provoke an anti-Nato backlash among the Bosnian Serb population that could wreck the elections.

The US, Britain and other countries with troops in Bosnia want the elections to proceed on schedule for fear the Dayton timetable may disintegrate. Although they acknowledge Nato troops may have to stay in Bosnia beyond the original deadline of next December, Western governments do not want their presence in Bosnia to turn into an open-ended commitment.

The prospects for holding elections by mid-September were not improved yesterday by an announcement that municipal elections in Mostar, the southern city divided between Muslims and Croats, will be held in late June instead of the scheduled date of 31 May.

Mr Izetbegovic's Muslim-led party, the Party of Democratic Action, had previously refused to participate in the elections on the grounds that Muslim refugees from Mostar would be denied the chance to vote.

The city had a slight Muslim majority before the 1992-95 war, but after fighting broke out, Bosnian Croats declared it the capital of their self- styled mini-state, Herzeg-Bosnia.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Asset Finance Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - ASSET FINANCE - An outstanding...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Assistant Marketing & PR Manager

£16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment